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US State Department: 'our position hasn't changed' on status of West Bank

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman at the Israeli Knesset on 25 July 2017 [US Embassy Tel Aviv/Flickr]
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman at the Israeli Knesset on 25 July 2017 [US Embassy Tel Aviv/Flickr]

The US State Department insisted on Tuesday that its position on the status of the West Bank as occupied territory "hasn't changed", but refused to explicitly confirm the nature of the position.

The remarks, during a press briefing, came after a report last week that US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, was urging the State Department to stop referring to occupation.

Asked whether "the administration believe that the West Bank is occupied by Israel", State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert replied: "I can only say that our position has not changed. Our position on that hasn't changed".

Pressed on if this means that "you still regard the West Bank as being occupied", Nauert simply repeated: "I can just tell you our position hasn't changed". The spokesperson added that "anything related to this region…is extremely sensitive", hence she was being "very careful with the words".

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After further requests for clarification, Nauert stated: "Our position has not changed, and I won't budge from that".

As reported by Haaretz, "this is not the first time Nauert has had to make such a statement following contradictory remarks by Friedman".

Over the summer, the ambassador told an Israeli news website that Israel was in fact only occupying 2 percent of the West Bank, after which Nauert stated that the US position has not changed (i.e. the entire West Bank is occupied territory).

In September, meanwhile, Friedman once again told Israeli news site Walla that Israel is "only occupying 2 percent of the West Bank". The State Department spokesperson then too distanced the administration from the envoy's remarks, saying they did not represent official American policy.

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